In the early hours of Friday morning I posted here urging against despair in response to the shattering defeat for “Remain”. I didn’t know then that I would have to watch the Party that I have been a member of for 45 years go through the worst crisis it has faced since before the Second World War and have to watch a debate take place which seems to fundamentally misunderstand what Leadership means. The Labour Party exists to represent the interests of a broad section of Britain and to win elections at every level so that it can act to turn rhetoric in to action. The Party itself will always be more important than any single individual within it but some members must undertake leadership roles.
I have worked for leaders as different in belief and temperament as Ken Livingstone and Jeremy Beecham who both were brilliant at it and I learned from them all. For most of the last 30 years I have been privileged to hold leadership positions myself locally and try to put some of the things I have learned into practice. I hope this means I might be permitted to make some observations about the current situation without my motives being impugned.
In those thirty years I faced a number of internal Labour Party selections, some of them extremely bruising, but one thing I learned was that the really hard work always started AFTER the selection was over. The right to lead has to be won over and over again. It involves earning at least the grudging respect of those who worked hard to stop you becoming the Leader. It involves working day after day to lead the whole Group many of whom will have their own separate mandates from the Party and the electorate and often very different views to you. It can even involve having to work with people you disagree with so fundamentally that you privately wonder how they can be in the same Party as you.
But you do all of that and accept that while you must provide a clear vision and articulate a narrative about what you, the Group and the Party are seeking to achieve there will be times when you have to accept that things you personally care deeply about are a lower priority for those you lead and however reluctantly you put them aside and enthusiastically work to deliver the priorities that you do all share.
Finally there will come a time when you understand that someone else is likely to be able to do a better job of leading than you are and that even if you believe that you could win a selection again it is nevertheless time to go. If you are very lucky (I count myself as that) it will be after years when you feel you have been able to deliver some things that have helped those you set out to work for. If you are unlucky it will come much more quickly and it will become clear that you simply cannot provide the leadership your Party needs. At that point there is only one remaining service you can do for your Party and that is to stand aside.